Even people who know next to nothing about the incredible country of Norway, can still tell you all about the people who lived there over one thousand years ago. The Vikings were among the world’s first travellers, exploring lands from Scandinavia to Newfoundland, and all the way to Constantinople on their long wooden ships. (That makes us friends.)
In all honesty, I never cared much for Viking history. Although I love ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ as much as the next guy; the pillaging, bloodthirsty, blonde-haired heroes of the North never did much for me. Turns out the Vikings have an undeserved rap, and many of my misconceptions of the Viking people were put in check on my visit to Norway.
The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo (Vikingskipshuset) takes visitor’s into the fascinating past of the Viking people. On display is the world famous Oseberg ship, which was excavated from a burial mound in 1904. The ship dates back to at least 800 AD, but many experts think it is possibly even older.
Did you know? Vikings didn’t only live in Norway. They were spread out throughout Scandinavia, including Denmark and Sweden. As they sailed their ships to new lands, many settled elsewhere. Rumor is that most of the Vikings now reside in Minnesota.
It is really amazing to see these ships in person, even if you have no interest in sea-faring vessels. Considering their age, they are in remarkable condition. I was surprised by the elaborate carvings still intact today, the Vikings (and Norwegians in general) were truly expert craftsmen.
Another ship on display is the Gokstad, although not as intact as the Oseberg, it is still in incredible condition. The Gokstad was found on a family farm in 1880. The area was one of legend, referred to as the Kongshaugen (King’s Mound), which inspired the family living on the grounds to start digging.
An exact replica of the Gokstad was built for the Chicago World’s fair in 1893, and still exists in storage at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. This photo taken in Chicago gives you a good idea of what these ships would have looked like back in the 7th century.
The Viking Ship Museum also has many of the items found in the burial mounds on display, such as an ornamental cart, sleds, tools, and household goods.
The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo is small, but impressive. It makes a great stop in conjunction with the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, which is only a five minute walk down the road. Adult tickets are NOK 50 (£5, $8), or free with the Oslo Pass. Children under 16 are free of charge.
You don’t need to go all the way to Norway for a good ol’ Viking infusion. (Although you should.) For those in the UK, or anyone visiting London in the immediate future, the British Museum will be unveiling the largest Viking exhibit in over three decades. Vikings Life and Legend will be on display from March 6- June 22, 2014. Adult tickets are currently priced at £16.50 for adults with free admission for children under 16.